The Chicago Bears selected Cole Kmet with their first pick in the 2020 NFL Draft.
To get a better understanding on who Kmet is on and off the football field, I talked to his former offensive coordinator at Notre Dame, Chip Long.
Here is my conversation with Long.
What was your reaction when you heard that Cole was drafted by the Chicago Bears?
A. Man, I was really excited for him. I know he was nervous and whatnot leading up to it, but to be able to play in your hometown and in front of all your family I know it was extremely important to him. Just him growing up a Bears fan and being close to family, I know he is excited about this. I’m really happy for him.
Have you been able to talk to Cole since he was drafted?
A: Oh, yeah. We talked a lot leading up to it, and then we talked a few hours afterwards when everything kind of settled down. He is ecstatic, man. He is ready to get to work. Hopefully, we all get back to work pretty soon. He is really fired up, though. It was a special day.
Did you get a chance to see Cole’s reaction when Matt Nagy called him or the video of the cars lining up in his neighborhood?
A: Yeah. His dad sent the video to me. I guess the call died or something like that and then he [Nagy] back. It was an emotional time. He put a lot of hard work in. To see it come true, man, makes me just so excited for him.
Chip, what was it like coaching Cole?
A: Oh, it was so special. Very few times in your life you get to coach a player of Cole’s caliber, character and work ethic. He has the physicality, speed, size and smarts. He still has so much football ahead of him.
His toughness, the way he was able to play hurt and play really well when hurt that was something I always had a tremendous respect for. I enjoyed every single day getting to work with him. I know that. He was just a special, special player that I was lucky to be a part of.
What was Cole Kmet like off the football field? What kind of personality does he have?
A: He has a good personality. He can be a nerd at times. Good student. Got along with everybody. He was really particular about things. He had some OCD habits about him. He always wanted to be super neat and clean. He always had a big ol smile on his face. He was awesome with my kids.
They would always come running to give him a big hug after practice, and he would always take the time to spend time with them when he came to the house. He would swim with them. Just your all-around, all-american young man that one day you hope your daughter marries. But as good as he is on the field, he is an even better person off of it. You just don’t see that. It’s very rare.
What are some of your best memories that you have about Cole whether it was on the football field or off of it?
A: One of the best memories I have of Cole was early on, and he was playing baseball at the time. I think his freshman year was over. He had a good weekend pitching, and they got back around 2:30 or 3:00 in the morning on Sunday. Cole was at his 6:00 a.m. lift just crushing it. It was his 6:00 a.m. football lift.
That dedication while maintaining a 3.8 GPA or something crazy like that just shows the amount of toughness and mental strength that he had to be able to do that, and I thought it just set him apart from anybody else. I was always truly amazed by that. He had a nasty high ankle sprain his sophomore year and just missed two weeks.
Most guys are out months, probably a little more. Just his ability to come back from injury and play well with it and help us get to the playoffs was something that was amazing. And just his everyday freakish ability with his size and speed and everyday wanting to come and get better and improve. He loved to study and loved to work at his craft. Those few memories when I saw that and heard that I knew he was going to be a special player.
Were there a bunch of times when baseball and football were overlapping and Cole would have to make a quick turnaround to get to a football lift or practice?
A: Oh, yeah. And he did all that while maintaining a high academic standard. He would do it. He would practice in the morning then go pitch or scrimmage in the morning and go pitch at night, and did that at a high level.
He never let one interfere with the other. He just handled it. He was always extremely mature for his age, and he did a great job handling it. If it was hard at times, you would never know just by the way he worked at it.
You and Cole both started at Notre Dame in 2017. What was it like to see him grow over the three years you guys were together?
A: It was awesome. He becomes family to you after so long. Just to see him grow and a lot of the other guys grow year after year, mature, becoming more confident, explosive and stronger and seeing him reach his ultimate dream that was my ultimate goal for our players. Your dreams are my dreams.
To see him to get to that level was so gratifying and fulfilling for me. I probably had more fun coaching him than he had with me.
What do you think are Cole’s greatest strengths as a player? Also, is there anything underrated about his game that people aren’t talking about?
A: I think what is a little bit underrated a bit is his physicality. Cole is really good in the run game. He is a good route runner. He has great hands and great leaping ability. I think he has a 37-inch vertical at 260 pounds, which is just nuts. His overall knowledge and the way he can think through the game I think is a huge testament to him.
And just being a great teammate and a guy that is the same person everyday I think is very underrated. You are not getting an emotional high or low guy. You are getting the same person everyday no matter what his circumstances are outside of the workplace. I think those are some of his best qualities to go with his freakish, physical attributes.
There seems to be a lot of talk about Cole’s blocking ability. Why do you believe he will have success in that area of his game?
A: You can look at tape, and I’m sure out of all the snaps he played he probably had some really good ones. I know he did a really great job for me, and I think he is only going to get better. During his sophomore year, too, he had a horrible ankle sprain, and last year he missed most of fall camp with a shoulder deal and came back after missing two games, so you go look at those early games and there is a lot of practice time that Cole missed. And he had to get used to the speed of the game.
I always thought he did a great job for me. We always got a great block from him when we needed it. I know that. You watch tape, though, you can see some inconsistencies at times, but there is a whole lot more good than there is bad. I think with staying healthy and working everyday he is going to be fine. I have no concerns about that at all.
Is there a play that stands out to you about Cole? Is there one play that exemplifies who Cole is and one you will never forget?
A: Yeah. We were playing Stanford his sophomore year, and it was fourth-and-1. I think it was the first or second quarter, and we ran a little play action fake. We freeze the defense and they went single high. Cole has to go up and make the play. This is his first game back with a bad ankle, and he goes up there and rips it from the safety.
Then we score three plays later to really start imposing our will on them in a big game, big moment. Just seeing him elevate with a bad leg and play at such a high level with a bad leg is something I will never forget.
How do you think Kmet was perceived by his teammates in the Notre Dame locker room?
A: Oh, he was highly respected. The moment you are around Cole, the more you are around Cole, you see that he is an alpha guy, an alpha dog. Everybody sees that. When he speaks, everybody listens. He proves his game by the way he works, the way he conducts himself. He will do whatever is asked of him with a smile. When Cole walks in the room, you know he is in there.
Obviously a big part of football is watching film. What was Cole like in the film room?
A: The kids at Notre Dame don’t get a lot of free time. Any time he had he would watch film late at night. We loved studying all the top tight ends in the NFL. Me and him would always watch [George] Kittle’s tape, [Travis] Kelce’s and we would take things from that to implement into his game.
He always saw himself as potentially being a great player, which is a starting point to potentially getting to that point. He always took hard coaching and took it well. And he constantly wanted to improve and wanted to improve in all aspects. That’s what I always loved about him.
You said that you and Cole would watch some of the top tight ends in the league. Was there a specific play that you wanted to implement in your offense after watching the film?
A: No, not really. We were a big tight end driven offense to begin with, so it was a lot of the same things. The offense a lot revolved around Cole and the quarterback, so we asked them to do a whole lot.
So there is not just one play, but just watching those guys with their releases, their stems, getting separation were always things we were constantly watching to improve Cole’s game.
Before I let you go Chip, do you have any final comments or feel that I may have missed anything that Bears fans need to know about Cole?
A: I think I said it all. He is a once-in-a-lifetime player for me. I just know that you are getting a player that is extremely hard working, very talented. As good as he is on the field, he is an even better person off of it. I can’t say enough good things about him.